Resolving to lead K.S. Sanalkumar
Mr. K.S. Sanalkumar & Family

Addressing the Textile and Garment Directors’ Forum at Westin Sukhumvit, Bangkok, Thailand, on the 26th of July, 2006, a young Chartered Accountant from India was making a case study and expert presentation on ‘Forecasting and managing fashion, garment and textile trend’ to a rapt audience consisting of managerial talent from garment industry from several countries He was the embodiment of Andrew Carnegie’s ideal entrepreneur, who ‘having begun on one line would resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it…’, and this was what made him ‘a voice that should be listened to’.

It was none other than Mr. K.S. Sanalkumar, the Managing Director of Classic Fashion Apparel Industry in Al-Hassan Industrial Estate, Ramtha, Irbid, Jordan. The experience he got from starting his own garment export industry, just three years earlier, was enough to impart some valuable lessons to other industrial entrepreneurs in the field who were, like him, swimming against currents to achieve their difficult targets. Leadership was not his birthright, like some Indian political bigwigs or industrialists by inheritance, but something he had to fight for every moment of his life.

Sanalkumar was born on July 14th 1959, to Krishnan Nair and Santha Kumari at Nemom, in Thiruvananthapuram District of Kerala. Now, most of the time, he is in Jordan managing his garment exporting industrial enterprise and his family is in Sharjah. His wife, Meera Sanal Kumar, is a Post graduate, and his two children are students. His son, Achyuth Krishnan, is studying for Final semester in Mechanical Engineering, at Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani, and his daughter, Shivani Sankar, is studying in the 11th Standard, at Our Own English High School, Sharjah.

Sanal Kumar, a Chartered Accountant by profession, started his managerial career in this field as Finance Manager in one of the major Garment Export Houses in Dubai in 1990. Heput in dedicated service in the post for two and half years, got fascinated with the trade and got into Production and Marketing aspects of the trade in addition to heading financial activities of the company.

After spending 4 years with the above Company, he moved into a bigger Garment Export House in Dubai, EMBEE Garments of Late Manu Badalani, as General Manager Operations. Mr Manu Badalani allowed him all the freedom he needed, taught him all the tricks of the trade and entrusted him great responsibilities. His expertise and experience grew with the Company he served. He could take the business of this company from 22 Million dollars in the year 1996 to 100 Million dollars in the year 1999.

After helping EMBEE Garments achieve steady and sustained growth, he left to establish a Garment Division for one of the major local groups in Abu Dhabi on a

Sanalkumar with his wife Meera and children Achyuth Krishnan and Shivani Sankar profit sharing basis. He set up Garment Division for this local group initially in Abu Dhabi. There was quota system in UAE which was a curb on industrial growth. He then expanded its business into Jordan. From zero sales in 1999, he could take its sales to 52 Million Dollars in the year 2002.

In the year 2003, Sanal Kumar decided to start a company of his own and thus Classic Fashion Apparel Industry in Al-Hassan Industrial Estate, Ramtha, Irbid, Jordan was established. He took two other professionals with expertise in the garment industry as his partners, Mr.Radhakrishnan Putharikkal, President, a mathematics graduate, and Mr. Sreedharan Nair Ramdas, Vice President, an engineer.

At the start, there were only two production lines with 120-130 machines and a work force of 300 and the sales figures for the first year was just 2 million dollars. The growth was phenomenal to achieve 120 million dollars of export sales in 2010, with over 4800 employees from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Jordan and 2400 machines. Sanal Kumar trained youngsters with a positive frame of mind to the industry requirements and made them responsible in whatever aspects of business entrusted to them with proper authority. He always believed in management by exception, and therefore gave freehand to managers of every stratum in the operation of the company.

In August 2006, his Company was included among the Golden List established by the Ministry of Labour of the Kingdom of Jordan in consideration for complying with local / international social & ethical compliance requirements. The Company is also a participant in ‘ILO-IFC Better Work Programme’ for the welfare of the employees.

The operations have been diversified to include a washing unit that washes over 30,000 Denims/garments per day, a printing unit with an installed capacity of printing on 20,000 garments per day and an embroidery unit with an installed capacity of embroidering up to 60,000 garments per day, besides effluent treatment plants to recycle water for reuse, etc.

Not satisfied with mere compliance with the environmental regulations in place, Sanal Kumar has taken bold initiatives of his own to conserve scarce natural resources, to save energy as far as possible, to manage wastes and recycle these, especially water, and to reduce pollution both atmospheric and environmental to the minimum. Electrical boiler replaced diesel boiler in Classic Jeans Unit II, heavy oil was used in place of diesel in the laundry unit, accommodation facilities of the workers were shifted close to the factory, to a walkable distance from 10 km distance, 60% of fresh water was replaced by recycled water, paper usage was reduced considerably, mezzanine floors were constructed to reduce further land usage and solid wastes, such as paper and food wastes, were managed in an eco-friendly manner. Sanal Kumar has made his Company lead the way in environmental protection too.

Jordan was not anywhere in the map of garment exporting countries until the year 1999. The Qualifying Industrial Zones agreement (QIZ), signed in 1996, began to show results in 1999 with an annual export of $10 million. QIZ allowed Jordan to export products to the United States duty-free if the products contain 8% inputs from Israel. The immediate saving for an investor in the QIZ is the amount of the U.S. tariff. By 2005, the annual export figure registered a steep climb to $1.3 billion. At that time there were just 120 factories, of which major factories were only 30-40 in the whole of Jordan.

Meanwhile, Free Trade Agreement with US freed Jordan from QIZ requirements. In 2007 Jordan’s annual export figures touched $1.14 billion. But global recession took its toll and the figures for 2008 and 2009 dropped to $934 million and $748 million respectively. However, 2010 has proved to be a year of revival and the annual exports are to the tune of $1.058 billion, and the figures for CLASSIC FASHION have risen over $118 million. It leads the garment export units of Jordan in volume of export, number of employees and many other fronts like environmental safeguards.

When looking back upon the trail of constant struggle that he has left behind, Sanal Kumar feels he could have never reached where he is today and Classic Fashion could never have become what it is today but for the unrelenting support of his family. He says, while he was busy with his Company concerns, it was Meera, his wife, who took full charge of the family and groomed their kids, making him a proud father without much of his own contribution.

Swimming against the currents of global recession and cutthroat competition, it requires a constant struggle just to keep afloat. Keeping ahead of all others in such circumstances is a Herculean task and Sanalkumar can never dream of resting on his laurels. And who can, in these difficult times?

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